On Your Side: Law enforcement seizes money without arrest

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Updated: 2/06/2014 9:16 am
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Imagine getting pulled over for a traffic stop, and instead of getting a ticket, the officer takes your money. All of it.

It happened to one man recently, who was driving on Interstate 80 through Northern Nevada. Now, he is fighting back.

It's a case that focuses on our rights: Can law enforcement take your money or property, even if you are not charged with a crime?

The driver was Tan Nguyen of California. He has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney. His attorney, John Ohlson said, "The basis of the stop was he was going 78 in a 75. The stop ended in a search, and the deputy took $50,000 from my client that belonged to him."

Nguyen was not arrested. He was not charged with any crime.  But Humboldt County Sergeant Lee Dove decided to confiscate a bundle of cash Nguyen happened to be carrying: $50,000 worth. Sergeant Dove even posed for a photo after seizing the cash.

In this incident report, Sergeant Dove observed that Nguyen seemed "nervous", was "argumentative", and that the car smelled of marijuana. No drugs were found during the stop.

Nguyen was not cited for doing anything illegal, although Sergeant Dove wrote in his report, "I felt he was not part of the legal traveling public," which he cited as justification for taking Nguyen's money.

When asked why Nguyen had so much cash, Ohlson responded, "I think it doesn't matter. I think the point is as long as there is U.S. currency in circulation, and we're allowed to have it, you can carry it."

This case seems to raise a lot of questions about all of our rights as citizens. The Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore was asked if he had any concerns about how the money was seized during this stop.

"At this point, I can't comment, since its an active litigation," Kilgore said.

But Humboldt County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Pasquale responded by saying, "If we think the money was obtained illegally, we have a right to seize it."

Does law enforcement have that kind of power? That's the question. This case is now headed to federal court, where a judge will decide whether authorities had a right to take Nguyen's money.

"You can have $50 and decide to buy drugs with it," Ohlson concluded. "But until you by the drugs, there's no crime."

Ohlson says he has heard of several other similar cases, where people had their money seized even though they were not charged with a crime. So far, only one known lawsuit has been filed.
18 Comment(s)
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Here are the most recent story comments.View All

Richard - 2/13/2014 1:09 PM
0 Votes
The video for this story is not working?

NorthernNevada - 2/11/2014 2:11 PM
1 Vote
I have lived in Winnemucca for 19 years and as my late father used to say when he drove through here back in the 50's, "Winnemucca is one of the crookedest,(his word) towns he ever knew." It still is.

maddyo says so - 2/10/2014 3:54 PM
1 Vote
Looks like that foolish sheriff's deputy needs to revisit the proper wording of the search and seizure laws of this traffic stop. Hope this agency gets their butts sued big time. This is a gaming state and $50 k is nothing since we just had a superbowl hint hint and lots of people were on the right side hint hint so I believe this bet will pay and the victim will be getting more than what those foolish deputies and department took illegally.

Kramer - 2/7/2014 2:19 PM
0 Votes
Loan Sum Dove. Winnie muckya

4me2knw - 2/7/2014 2:58 AM
0 Votes
I hope news 4 keeps track of this and reports on the final ruling.

oldguyincc - 2/6/2014 6:37 PM
1 Vote
Are Judge Elliot, Sergeant Dove, Sheriff Kilgore and ADA Pasquale related?

DaveAsh - 2/6/2014 5:17 PM
2 Votes
Pasquale was voted out of Churchill County. Whew! Dodged that bullet.

Bubbles - 2/6/2014 11:45 AM
4 Votes
The fascist police state. Things will get much worse. Time to rid ourselves of the pos in office that allow this garbage to continue.

captain doc - 2/6/2014 11:16 AM
3 Votes
Taking money by Nevada law enforcement has been going on for years. Reno is not exempt from this accusation and it is common knowledge, especially by illegals, that if you carry enough cash you can get out of a ticket or arrest. Humboldt county has and more than likely will always have problems with police, if not taking money then making arrests for crimes not committed in order to build self esteem or arrests for trophy type of ego.

Justacitizen - 2/6/2014 10:00 AM
4 Votes
I was traveling to my job in Elko County on I-80 a few years back. A little east of Winnemucca, a Humboldt County sheriff's vehicle came up behind me and moved into the left lane then proceeded to travel alongside, in my blind spot, for roughly 4 miles. Real safe. I got tired of it, and decided to exit in Winnemucca and shop for groceries there instead of waiting until I reached Elko. He followed and pulled me over for failing to signal before exiting. When he was satisfied I didn't fit the drug user/seller profile, he told me the real reason for riding in my blind spot and stopping me: they were looking for drugs. If someone exhibits what they interpret as nervous behaviors, like exiting from the interstate, after they engage in what I consider unsafe and irritating behaviors, those folks become suspects. All I can say is I'm glad I didn't have any money on me.

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